Wednesday, July 31 is the Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the 463 anniversary of his death. St. Ignatius was born in 1491 to the Spanish nobility. He served as a page in the court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella before joining the army. He lived a life dedicated to feats of arms and worldly glory. In 1521 he was injured at the siege of Pampeluna and taken to a monastery to heal. During his recuperation he had a lot of time to reflect and to read, but the only books they had were a life of Christ by Ludolph the Carthusian and a collection of biographies of the saints. He especially reflected on the biography of St. Francis of Assisi and began to feel a desire to do what St. Francis did and leave everything behind, dedicate His life entirely to Christ, and work for the renewal of the Church. However, his thoughts would often also turn back to his former worldly pursuits. Reflecting on these things he realized that worldly glory left him dry and depressed, and so he dedicated His life to the glory of God.
When he left there he took a vow of chastity, hung up his sword before the altar of the Virgin of Montserrat, donned a pilgrim’s robes, and became a hermit for several years to learn how to live a Christian life. In 1523 he left for the Holy Land to convert Muslims, and in 1528 he began studying theology, graduating in 1534. At the University of Paris he began to gather others around himself, like Blessed Peter Faber and St. Francis Xavier, and eventually founded the Society of Jesus. The Society of Jesus, known as the Jesuits, were dedicated to the service of the Pope and the Church and to bringing protestants to conversion.
The motto of the Society of Jesus is Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam, “Greater Glory to God.” St. Ignatius explained the meaning of this motto by pointing out that we are always obligated to choose good instead of bad and virtue instead of vice. This is a basic part of Christianity. However, sometimes there are multiple good options for how to act, so how do we choose between them? St. Ignatius said that we should always choose the action that gives greater glory to God. This isn’t about what we are obligated to do, but about becoming a saint. We shouldn’t be satisfied with mediocrity but should always strive for greatness. Ultimately, though, worldly greatness will fade away and be forgotten, and you can’t take it with you into the afterlife. In the end even the tombs and mausoleums will turn to dust, but God’s glory is eternal, without beginning or end.
Do you want glory? Then strive to achieve the only type of glory that will matter in the end: the glory of God that the saints share in heaven.
Fr. Bryan became pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes on July 3, 2017. Read his bio here.